Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical How does your brain decide what to remember?

  1. Sep 19, 2007 #1
    Why is it that I can remember little unimportant events that happened in my childhood over 20 years ago, but I can't remember what I wore last Monday? I know major events that happened in your life your brain will remember for years, but I can remember one particular day sitting in my elementary school classroom listening to the teacher talk about some uninteresting fact. I cannot remember any other days immediately surrounding this one event. So, I'm a just wondering if any of you science minded folks know how your brain decides which little events to pick out from your past and store permanently in your memory?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2007 #2
    I find your observations very strange. I cannot remember a single mundane thing from my life. All my old memories are tied to emotional situations.

    Very interesting. Perhaps I'm abnormal in this case. Anyone else care to comment?
     
  4. Sep 19, 2007 #3

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I am with mikemortal. The moments remembered from childhood are seemingly from random points and very spotty.

    mike, I am fairly convinced that certain memories are significant, even of they don't seem to be. Additionally, they are constantly getting reinforced (and edited!) every time you think of them, which is why they persist.
     
  5. Sep 19, 2007 #4
    Of course, my memories are somewhat random but I can see why I would remember them in each case.

    For example: Getting chased by a vacuum cleaner, my old dog biting my hand through a handpuppet, getting a question right in class that nobody else could get the answer to.

    Each a rather random example of excitement, pain and pride, respectively.

    Are you sure there's no emotional connection? I really can't remember anything that has no obvious reason to remember it.
     
  6. Sep 19, 2007 #5
    squeaky wheel gets the grease- the neural connections that get reinforced into hardwired long-term memory are the ones that continue to be the most active over time- if you remember something from 20 years ago it means that whatever the event was cause some signal patterns between neurons that where reactivated several times- such as in dreams or thinking about the event at the time- analyzing it- just enough of the right kind of thinking and remembering and perhaps your body's chemistry at the time allowed the memory to become a stronger hardwired pattern that could easily be reactivated in the long term future
     
  7. Sep 20, 2007 #6
    I remember all kinds of unimportant things from childhood and later. Though I'm only twenty, I don't see how I could forget all the distinct memories from childhood. I remember the parts that were emotionally intriguing and others that had no relevence to anything. It is funny because like someone else said it appears to be spotty. I remember thousands of things from childhood but only remember at that instant. For example, once I hit a home run and that is the only thing I remember. I don't remember before it or after it. By the way, I have hit more then one homerun. :)
     
  8. Sep 25, 2007 #7
    I read somewhere that there is a major corralation between events remembered and amount of adrenalin released at that time. For example, the 3 seconds of the drop on the roller coaster in comparison to the 2 hour wait in line took to get there. But, as stated before, there is quite a bit of adrenalin in emotional events (fight or flight), so I could also see that being logical.... And I wish could regurgitate the source of this idea, but i do not remember, must not have been to exciting......
     
  9. Oct 1, 2007 #8
     
  10. Oct 2, 2007 #9
    If I remember correctly, the brain basically remembers everything, but the recalling process is affected by the significance of the event in your life. That's why events that affect your emotionally are easier to recall.
     
  11. Oct 2, 2007 #10
    I'm not that sure about the brain basically remembers everything because even though I have tried very hard to remember significant events in my life i haven't been able to. It must be something else.
     
  12. Oct 2, 2007 #11

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I believe that all memories are stored but that ones tied to strong emotions are usually recalled more frequently and therefor easier to recall. I can recall a lot of insignificant things from the past, many I had completely forgotten. The easiest way to do it is to recall something with more significance and then look around at what else happened at that time, it's like flipping through a photo album with all photos in chronological order, you can flip back and forth. If you focus on a picture, a lot of times you can play the video and see everything as it happened, it's very cool. At least that is how my memory works.

    Don't you ever just let your mind wander back and you start seeing flashes of all kinds of insignificant things? At first they are just snippets, but the more you focus on a snippet, the clearer it gets.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2007
  13. Oct 2, 2007 #12

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

     
  14. Oct 3, 2007 #13

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Can't? Or won't? :rolleyes:

    Hypnotism only works on those who believe it will work.
     
  15. Oct 3, 2007 #14

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I agree.

    I actually wanted to be hypnotized to see what it was like and the guy was supposedly the top US clinical psychologist that did hypnotism and supposedly had never failed to hynotize anyone. I was his first failure.

    My take on hypnosis is that at best it's a relaxation technique.
     
  16. Oct 5, 2007 #15

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Don't do it. You are pretty much guaranteed to come away with a distorted take on what happened. It's surprisingly easy for false memories to take root in everyday cognition, and if anything hypnotherapy to recover memories is even worse.
     
  17. Oct 5, 2007 #16

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Perhaps wanting to be hypnotized is necessary for being hypnotized to some degree, but it's not sufficient. Or else we would expect training programs like these to increase hypnotic susceptibility.
     
  18. Oct 5, 2007 #17

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The existing literature on hypnosis makes it seem that hypnosis is related to attentional functioning more than physiological relaxation.

    A couple of things I scrounged up on Pubmed quickly suggest some direct evidence against the view that hypnosis is just relaxation. Hypnosis is possible in an altert state. The effects of alert and relaxation hypnosis can be similar, and both are different from the effects of relaxation training alone.
     
  19. Oct 8, 2007 #18

    JasonRox

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

     
  20. Oct 8, 2007 #19

    JasonRox

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Hypnosis doesn't increase the accuracy of recalling memory. All it does is increase our certainty that we are right although like I said earlier, we could be wrong but become more certain we are right.
     
  21. Oct 8, 2007 #20

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's worse than that. The wrong kind of techniques can actually create novel false memories. See here. I would urge the original poster **NOT** to pursue any hypnosis therapy for the purpose of retrieving old memories.
     
  22. Oct 8, 2007 #21

    JasonRox

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    That's what I mean.

    Like you could be wrong and be certain that you're right. Hypnosis will just make you more certain that's you're right although you're actually wrong without even knowing.

    Creating false memories is not just a hypnosis thing. It can be done under a regular state of mind. This is why you should consult a professional to avoid this from happening as much as possible.
     
  23. Oct 8, 2007 #22

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    But depending on the kind of "professional" you see, you may be directed towards the wrong kinds of techniques. The best advice is to avoid this sort of memory recovery thing altogether. The potential for misinformation is too high.
     
  24. Oct 8, 2007 #23

    JasonRox

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    That's true too.

    In the textbook I'm reading, they talked about the "memory recovery" trend in the 1980's and how many people started saying they now remember being abused as a child and what not. Later it was found that lots of it wasn't actually "true". (I say "true" based on evidence and such.)
     
  25. Oct 9, 2007 #24
    I have a large book on clinical hypnosis which says the main thing that must be accomplished is to over-ride a person's "executive" function, usually by relaxation. But, since you mention "alert" hypnosis, it makes sense that any means of getting suggestions in without the executive function examining and censoring them will work. "Alert" hypnosis might well work better than relaxation. If you preoccupy the executive function with some task it's as good a way to get around it as putting it to sleep.

    Derren Brown, apparently, did this in the episode where he hypnotized a cab driver into not being able to find a well known London landmark. It's called "The Eye of London" and is a large, wheel like sculpture, something like a ferris wheel. As the cabbie began to drive there, Brown started chattering in the manner of cab passengers "Damn, I've had such a frustrating day! I've got this little toy truck and the wheel came off, and I've spent the whole morning going round and round looking for it but couldn't find the damned wheel anyhere." or words to that effect. The cabbie proceeds to drive right past the "Eye of London" and goes around and around a neighborhood passing it again several times, saying "I'm positive it's around here somewhere."

    The dynamic, I think, is that his attention to driving preoccupied his executive functions while Derren Brown planted the off hand and indirect suggestion that the wheel was nowhere to be found. I, as an audience member who'd been informed the cabbie was about to be hypnotized, consciously caught the whole toy wheel story in detail, but the cabbie was very likely not paying much attention.
     
  26. Oct 9, 2007 #25
    You cannot be hypnotized, Evo! You cannot be hypnotized!
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook